An accidental discovery made by Dale Kleist was the crucial breakthrough needed for manufacturing insulation-quality glass fibers in commercial quantities, making the fiberglass used as insulation in buildings, stoves, refrigerators, and furnaces affordable.
Born in Newark, Ohio, Kleist studied at The Ohio State University before working as a researcher at Owens-Illinois Glass Company in 1932. Teaming with Games Slayter and Jack Thomas to create better glass technology, Kleist attempted to seal together architectural blocks by melting and spraying glass. Although Kleist was unsuccessful sealing the blocks, the errant spray of molten glass inadvertently formed tiny glass fibers.
Thomas helped Kleist refine the technique, known as the steam-blown process. In 1938 Owens-Illinois and Corning Glass jointly created a new company, Owens-Corning Fiberglas® Corporation, to make fiberglass products using the process, as well as other innovations created by Kleist, Thomas, and Slayter.
Today, Owens Corning is a five billion dollar global leader, manufacturing not just glass fiber insulation but also glass fiber reinforcements used in sports cars, boats, and bathroom fixtures.